Competition and consumer laws in a global market


Project leader(s)

This project contained five interrelated projects which explored the impact of globalisation from a competition and consumer policy perspective for the relatively small and isolated Australian market. Given the domination of the United States and European Union in international competition regulation and debates surrounding it, a key concern was the role that Australia did, and should, play. A key question was: What would be the costs and benefits of Australia’s potentially catalysing/educating role for the majority of countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region that have no, or underdeveloped, competition regimes?

  1. Competition tests and globalisation
  2. Jurisdiction
  3. International cartels
  4. Product safety regimes in a global economy
  5. Intellectual property

Competition tests and globalisation

How the market is defined is changing in the light of globalisation such that competition from outside the jurisdiction may be as, if not more, significant than competition within. This makes evaluation more dependent on information from rivals unless there is effective cooperation with authorities in other jurisdictions. While globalisation may be significant, the existence of sub-markets (of which Australia may be one) becomes important – as does the test for barriers to entry. With international mergers Australia can be only one of 16-20 authorities dealing with the matter. This project enhanced learning and knowledge acquisition within the ACCC to better deal with competition tests and globalisation.


Issues of consumer protection from off shore companies are best handled when jurisdiction is resolved before the matter gets to court. The matter is one of enforcement as well as asserting jurisdiction in the first place. In interviews with trade associations and firms the key questions of this project were explored: Can the consumer secure rights to repairs and refunds where the company is offshore? What legal regime might allow it? The project enhanced learning and knowledge acquisition within the ACCC on these matters.

International cartels

For this project literature work, interviews with key figures in international bodies, responses by national authorities, and a case study established the key issues in the ACCC’s handling of international cartels. The project contributed to the evaluation of the ACCC’s performance in international cartel matters and to its learning and knowledge acquisition in relation to the following related issues: the most appropriate level at which to deal with international cartels; jurisdiction; and substance. What type of international regime will allow for a balance between international cooperation and effective local enforcement.

Product safety regimes in a global economy

To contribute to the ACCC’s learning and knowledge acquisition in relation to making safety regimes workable in a global economy, this project compared European Union examples (where much standard setting is common throughout the EU and is effectively private standard setting within a loose legislative framework) with the more diffuse pattern in APEC, including the Hong Kong approach.

Intellectual property

The balance between consumerism and intellectual property protection has both an economic and a legal element. An economist needs to set out the ongoing uncertainty in the literature as to the relative merits/demerits of, for example, parallel importing. Legally, the issue has been ‘live’ in the European Union context for the last few years and remains unresolved with in the European courts. The issue is not whether there is a conflict but more how to balance invention with competition and choice. What criteria should be used and in what order of priority? Through a workshop which involved lawyers and economists with particular expertise in the areas, this project enhanced learning and knowledge acquisition within the ACCC on the balance between consumerism and intellectual property protection.

Image: Emeritus Professor John Braithwaite

Professor John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite is an Emeritus Professor and Founder of RegNet (the Regulatory Institutions Network), now School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University...

Image: Emeritus Professor Peter Drahos (RegNet)

Professor Peter Drahos

Peter Drahos is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, at the Australian National...

Trade, investment & IP 440x440

Trade, investment and intellectual property

This cluster looks at the impacts of the trade, investment and intellectual property regimes on the regulatory sovereignty and capacity of states and the consequences that flow from those impacts.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet